A Summer Place (1959) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
76 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Romance For All The Family ?
jpdoherty11 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A cannily created slice of American romantic hokum is probably the best description that can be afforded this 1959 Warner Bros.production - A SUMMER PLACE! From the best selling novel by Sloan Wilson this story about the emerging sexual awareness in the young and the sexual re-awakenings in their seniors was written, produced and directed with a certain flair - it has to be said - by Delmer Daves. As with many of Daves' movies it was richly photographed in gorgeous Technicolor, and this time, by the great Harry Stradling on beautiful locations in and around the New England coast. Arriving for a vacation to Pine Island comes Molly - the attractive adolescent who instantly has the reciprocal hots for young Johnny (teen idol Troy Donahue), while her father (Richard Egan) takes up where he left off years before when he had a deep romantic entanglement with Johnny's mother (Dorothy Maguire) before she married alcoholic hotelier Bart Hunter (Arthur Kennedy turning in the best performance in the movie).

The picture's outspoken attitude to sex caused something of a sensation to audiences in the sixties. Now fifty years later the sexual machinations depicted all seem pretty mild. Nonetheless in its day the film amassed a vast teen following and today is remembered with some fondness mostly because of Max Steiner's theme music. The Young Love Theme the veteran Warner composer wrote for the movie (71 years old at the time) became a smash hit virtually overnight in the sixties when a cover version was recorded by the Percy Faith orchestra! This sunny little tune is still played and is just as catchy today as it was fifty years ago.

The versatile Steiner - fresh from scoring Warner's big cop epic "The FBI Story" and Daves' seminal Gary Cooper western "The Hanging Tree" - could cross over subject and thematic boundaries with little difficulty and score such things as this potent drama of teenage and adult love with equal dexterity. Besides the infectious Young Love Theme there is the picture's most dominant cue - The Adult Love Theme. This piece goes all the way back to 1932 when Steiner first wrote it for the Gary Cooper/Helen Hayes movie "A Farewell To Arms". But producer David O'Selznick rejected it at the time and the composer kept it on ice until he saw use for it 27 years later as the Main Theme for A SUMMER PLACE. And a blessing it is too for it works so wonderfully well in the later film! First heard over the titles - as the tide crashes against the rocks on the Maine Coast - it is given lush renditions throughout the picture. A hum-inducing, warm and thoroughly engaging piece with elegant harmonic stresses it is one of the composer's loveliest melodic inspirations. Its broadest and most ravishing versions are heard in the scenes with the older lovers (Egan and Maguire) for their nightly trysts in the boathouse ("I'm not pretty for you anymore - and I'm sorry about that"). Other lovely cues are the sprightly motif for Johnny and, scored for harp and strings, the tender music for scenes with Molly and her father. Also for scenes around the New England coast Steiner reuses another old piece of his - the sea cue he originally wrote for the 1946 Bette Davis picture "A Stolan Life".

With A SUMMER PLACE writer producer director Daves hit upon a winning formula for this kind of glossy and attractive looking motion picture. He went on to successfully write, produce and direct three similar type films and all starring Troy Donahoe - "Parrish" (1961), "Susan Slade" (1961), "Rome Adventure" (1962) and, one other without Donahue, "Spencer's Mountain" (1963). These four pictures also had exceptional scores by the exceptional Max Steiner.
31 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A New Love Born, An Old Love Rekindled
bkoganbing9 October 2009
One of the great young love romances ever done on the screen, A Summer Place is the story of two romances, one born and the other rekindled.

Richard Egan and Constance Ford with their daughter Sandra Dee are returning to Pine Island, Maine where years ago before Egan became wealthy as a research chemist he was employed as a lifeguard and where he romanced one of the town beauties. Pine Island is like Kennebunkport, the private reserve of the Bush family. This is the private reserve of several old Yankee families who if they can't trace their ancestors on the Mayflower at least they go back to Puritans who might have found New England more hospitable than Restoration Great Britain.

Egan's rented out several rooms from thinning blue blood Arthur Kennedy and his wife Dorothy McGuire. It was McGuire who Egan loved and lost those many years ago.

Neither Egan and McGuire have found much happiness in their second choice for spouses. Constance Ford, a truly uptight and frigid woman from Buffalo has not kanoodled with Egan for years. You know he's good and ready. As for McGuire's marriage, Kennedy has all the airs of a patrician, but not the money any more. Did he lose it because of his alcohol problem, or is he drinking because the family fortune has gone? It's your choice.

So Egan and McGuire discover each other and Sandra Dee discovers Kennedy and McGuire's son, Troy Donahue. Because of her mother, Dee's led a sheltered life and I'm betting the isolation of Pine Isle with its very few inhabitants hasn't improved Donahue's social skills either. The two kids are sadly a textbook case for sex education.

Feeling betrayed by their parents, all of them when you come right down to it, the young people feel they have only each other. The passion multiplies exponentially.

Right up there with the human cast members in making A Summer Place a big commercial hit for Warner Brothers is Max Steiner's theme, played when Dee and Donahue are together. It's popularity on the radio and jukeboxes sold many a ticket to this film.

Egan and McGuire are also appealing in their way to discover their passions are still the same. The odd spouses out are also turning in fine performances. Arthur Kennedy who was never bad in any film he ever did is both arrogant and yet pitiable as the sad sack alcoholic. The villain of A Summer Place is really Ford, she's made life hell for Egan and Dee. Yet you wonder throughout the film what must have she been like back in the day for Egan to fall for her in the first place and what changed her.

It's Eisenhower era America and the story is dated somewhat, but not all that much. I can see A Summer Place being a candidate for a remake, who would you cast in a remake among today's players?
11 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Delinquent parents and delinquent children...make a sudsy melodrama...
Doylenf26 August 2006
Despite being almost overwhelmingly melodramatic when treating the subject of sex in the context of its time, A SUMMER PLACE manages to rise above the soap suds when dealing with mismatched parents and a rekindled love affair (DOROTHY McGUIRE and RICHARD EGAN) that almost destroys everyone's happiness.

It's all very lush looking in magnificent color, a Pine Island resort in Maine photographed principally in Northern California along the Monterey coast. Whenever emotions soar, whether quiet emotions or full throttled ones, Max Steiner's music is there ready to lend a helping hand.

As the teen-aged lovers, SANDRA DEE and TROY DONAHUE are just as photogenic as the landscapes they're photographed against, especially when the color cameras turn their close inspection on the two bronzed, blue-eyed stars. While not quite as photogenic, DOROTHY McGUIRE and RICHARD EGAN are quietly having a love affair of their own which must be kept hidden from their respective spouses until a showdown that leads to a rather satisfying conclusion.

The handsome production values and earnest performances are matched well against Max Steiner's famous score. His "The Theme from A Summer Place" is as gorgeous and popular as ever with soundtrack fans.

A SUMMER PLACE can take its place alongside other handsomely produced soapers of the '50s. CONSTANCE FORD and ARTHUR KENNEDY do very well in strong supporting roles and it's all a bit more substantial than it sounds on paper.

Easy to see why Max Steiner's "Theme from A Summer Place" hit the top of the music charts for a long, long time in the summer of '59.
10 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Sneaky Tub of Suds
dougdoepke28 November 2010
It's easy to mock this big tub of soap suds. What with the two baby-faced innocents and a ton of Dee's pouty close-ups, it's a generous slice of white bread, 50's style. But beneath all the teen-age angst and adult philandering lies a surprisingly subversive message for that uptight decade.

Because, once things get sorted out over the 130 minutes, we find out a number of social rules have not only been broken, but their violation justified. For example: the storyline implies that teen sex may be okay as long as the kids truly love each other— a violation of the teenage abstinence rule; that unwed teen pregnancy need not be punished— a challenge to Production Code insistence; and that adultery may be okay if the spouses are in impossible marriages—a further erosion of that seemingly sacred institution. The overall idea, is that no matter what, true love forgives all.

Now, this may seem pretty tame stuff 50-years later in our anything-goes era. But I guarantee, it was cutting edge Hollywood at the time, even if the messages were buried in a load of glossy make-believe. Responding to the slick package were lines of teens stretching around the block, and it wasn't just because of the catchy title tune. Then too, those folks curious about the breakdown of 50's conformity and the youth rebellion of the 60's should include this highly unexpected entry in their thinking.

At the same time, writer-director Daves seems an unlikely source for both the message and the genre, with his background in adult Westerns, such as the classic 3:10 to Yuma (1957). Here, he's very shrewd in his casting of Hollywood veterans. There's the likably masculine Egan (Ken) and the saintly maternal McGuire (Sylvia). Between them, they make infidelity seem not only permissible, but required. Then there's the affably tipsy Kennedy (Bart) and the assertively witchy Ford (Helen). Between them, they make cuckolding seem not only permissible, but also required. Taken together, it's almost perfect type casting. My only reservation is with Ford who seems too aggressively mean to make her marriage believable.

Daves is also a sneaky filmmaker since he wraps the controversial subtext in irresistible gloss. Few pictures of the era are as gorgeous as this one, and I'm not just talking about Donahue (who's even prettier than his co-star). Those Technicolor shots of the Carmel coastline are mesmerizing, along with the Lloyd Wright cliffside house. For visual contrast, compare this production with the thematically similar but dour-looking Blue Denim of the same year and also with two blonde innocents-- Brandon deWilde and Carol Lynley. The black&white Denim is the more earnest of the two, yet lacks the candy-box covering that giftwraps this production. Thus, for all its seriousness, Denim lacked the same teen drawing power and impact.

Anyway, as mentioned, mocking the film is easy, what with all the soapsuds and two Photoplay leads. However, I salute Daves for knowing how to get his humane message across to a popular audience, despite providing grist for generations of smirking critics. Happily, Daves proves here that there was more to his filmmaking than a fast gun, Glenn Ford, and a slow train to Yuma.
13 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
gknysh15 February 2007
I saw this movie as a teen in January 1960 and was totally mesmerized. So much so that I returned to watch it eight days in a row... It was so incredibly right for me at that time. Sandra Dee became like my goddess. I learned the dialogue practically by heart. I saw it again on DVD after 47 years. Very moving reminiscences. As the scenes unrolled it all came back, word for word. Few people seem to realize BTW(as to the music) that there are really two major themes in the film: the young love theme, which you hear for the first time around minute 15 (when Sandra is shown around the estate and its garden), and which while quite wonderful is relatively muted in comparison to the pop version (which should have somehow been included in the special features). And the quite different, and superb, main theme (slightly less than 2 minutes long) which opens the film. Frankly, in the context of the whole story I prefer the latter. The message of the movie remains as compelling as ever: there is nothing stronger than love, and love conquers all, or should. You bet! I don't know of any film which says it better.
22 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
There's a reason this one's a classic
dwr24616 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Although it's dated, naive, and more than occasionally melodramatic, this film is still a classic with a message that has a certain timelessness to it. It also boasts gorgeous cinematography, and excellent performances from Richard Egan, Constance Ford, and especially Dorothy McGuire and Sandra Dee.

The plot, which is somewhat convoluted, is basically this: Twenty years before the beginning of the movie, Ken (Egan), a struggling college student, takes a summer job as a lifeguard at a resort island off the coast of Maine. While there, he meets and falls in love with Sylvia (McGuire), the daughter of a family staying on the island. Because he has no money, and no social standing, her parents decide against the match, and the two are forced to separate, each going off to an unhappy marriage. Ken weds Helen, the epitome of a frigid wife (played to perfection by Ford), so much so that you wonder how on earth she let him touch her long enough to create their daughter, Molly (Dee). Sylvia has fared little better, marrying Bart Hunter (Arthur Kennedy), a likable lush. They have a son, Johnny (a painfully wooden Troy Donahue), who, it turns out, is about the same age as Molly. Twenty years have brought a sort of reversal of fortunes to the two families, as Ken is now a self made millionaire, while Bart's family has so little money that they are forced to stay on the island year round. Ken has decided that a vacation is long overdue, and writes to Sylvia to see if his family can stay with hers on the island for the summer. Sylvia and Bart agree to this. Molly and Johnny develop an instant affection for each other, much to the chagrin of Molly's mother, while Ken and Sylvia's reunion rekindles their romance, with tragic consequences for all.

While the issues of teen sexuality and adultery are hardly shocking to today's audiences, this was pretty daring in 1959, and the film handles them in a forthright way, only occasionally lapsing into melodrama or preaching. The focus on virginity seems especially old fashioned to a modern audience, and gives the film an unintended humorous aspect.

Among the leads, the acting is uniformly strong except for Troy Donahue, whose performance is stilted and unsatisfying. Richard Egan manages to infuse enough warmth into his character that you are willing to forgive his sermonizing. Particularly touching is his portrayal of a father whose love and concern for his daughter knows no limits. Arthur Kennedy does a good job of making his drunken character human and sympathetic. Constance Ford zealously plays Helen with such menace and malice that you really enjoy the zingers thrown at her (Sylvia's "You seem to have an infinite capacity for hurt.", the doctor's "Mrs. Jorgenson, you're being less than no help at all," and Bart's response to Helen's "Don't tell me you're on their side!" with "Let's just say I'm not on yours."). Sandra Dee's doe-eyed innocence works beautifully in her portrayal of a young woman learning a few of life's lessons before she should. And Dorothy McGuire is charming as Sylvia, giving us a character we can't help liking even when she falls from grace.

The film accurately portrays the attitudes of its time, which may make it less accessible to viewers who weren't around then. In spite of that, you find yourself caring about these characters, and their predicaments.

All, in this is a highly enjoyable film, and well worth watching, especially if you're yearning to return to "a simpler time."
22 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
not as dated as first imagined
sharkey19721 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I have always loved this film, but was sure that it wouldn't quite register with modern day teens in the same way because there is such a different attitude now towards sex and relationships. I was teaching a course in critical viewing of film and wanted to show it as a bridge between movies made under the old production code and movies of today. As we watched it, an amazing thing happened. We realized that the movie reflected a disintegration of marriage that would predict times to come and had lots of relevance in terms of what could happen to kids from broken homes. The romance between Dee and Donahue was easy for the kids to understand, but they also related in part to the older lovers, mostly because the depiction of the marriages was so detailed. I mean, who would want to stay with Ford and Kennedy? Watching the film with them, I could see so much more--exactly why this film was so condemned at the time by the Catholic Legion of Decency for its sympathetic treatment of adultery and premarital sex. It turned out to be a great choice for my course and one that I will definitely use again. Why isn't it on DVD and what a shame that all the principles are gone since a commentary from them would have been so wonderful. For all everyone says about Sandra Dee, I don't know many 17 year ODs who could have turned in that kind of high intensity performance. She was an actress with hidden depths who was unfortunately typecast. Never tire of this film and the song is stunning even today!
10 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of the first and best teen love stories ever!!!!!
verna5526 September 2000
This is one of the first films to deal with young love, and is by all means one of the best! The story centers primarily on Molly and Johnny, two teenagers who are deeply, madly, and wildly in love, but their parents just won't have it. It seems their parents are willing to do just about everything to keep them apart. Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue are both magnificent as the star-crossed lovers. All right, so Troy seems a little stilted at times, but Sandra is perfection as the beautiful young girl who constantly finds herself at odds with her eagerness to do the right thing, and fulfilling her love for Donahue. Dee hits all the right marks as the emotionally troubled girl, delivering what is possibly her all-time best performance. It was certainly a breakthrough for the gifted young star who proved that she could do more than play smiling, giggling, relentlessly perky teens. It's a magnificent achievement, and anyone who has ever doubted Sandra's acting abilities are in for a big surprise when they see her in this film. Other acting honors go to Richard Egan and Constance Ford as Dee's unhappy parents, and the always marvellous Dorothy McGuire as Egan's old flame. That's not to say that the actors don't stumble at times with some supremely silly dialogue, but their star power and great talent rides rather smoothly over the film's bumpy spots, making this film an enjoyable classic of the teenage-angst genre. It's also one of the most stylishly done films in the genre. The great director Delmer Daves gives the film his full attention, and it's a sleek, colorful production that ranks right up there with other films with similarly-related themes like REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS for example. It all may seem rather dated, but truthfully, this film is just as enjoyable now as it was when it was first released in 1959, and that title theme is still hauntingly beautiful and memorable.
30 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Who do you think you are? Troy Donahue?
gooelf5021 February 2007
This was an OK movie. The big draw was Troy Donahue in his first starring film role. A fine looking young Sandra Dee was also a big draw, although not as big as Donahue. I remember that I was a lad in high school when the film was released and all of the girls raved about the fantastic looking blonde wonder boy, Troy Donahue. Whenever one of the guys started acting a little too cool, he was brought quickly back to reality with the question, "Who do you think you are? Troy Donahue?" The Theme song of the movie was played by Percy Faith and his orchestra and was called simply "Theme from a Summer Place" and was on the pop charts for months. Guys loved the song as much as girls because it had a slow and lilting rhythm that even the most awkward oaf could dance to and the girls just loved to be held tightly when it was playing. The scenery was delightful as the film was shot at the seashore where there was lots of water, sand and lush greenery. The plot was fairly comprehensive and involved affairs and marital deceit compounded by the love that developed between Troy and Sandra's characters. All in all not a bad movie, certainly worth the 45 cents admission that I paid to see it in 1959.
20 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Get Thee To DVD At Once!
Noirdame7920 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
DVD please? I saw this movie when it aired on A&E, and it captivated me as a child, and still does as an adult. The theme song is great, and I still find myself listening to it!!! I became a fan of Sandra Dee's after I saw her in "Gidget" and "Imitation Of Life" and I thought her performance was so real and heart-wrenching. Constance Ford, as her bitchy, controlling mother Helen, gives a strong portrayal of a bitter, frigid, unhappy woman who takes her anguish out on everyone around her, even her daughter. (She really gives Mommie Dearest a run for her money). The scene where she forces Molly to submit to a pelvic exam after she and lover-boy Johnny (the late Troy Donahue) have an accident on the beach (the boat capsizes) is horrible and makes the viewer grimace. The fact that the doctor was old and gross looking, and began to unbutton Molly's blouse without her consent, as she screamed, "Oh please, no, I want my father! I've been a good girl! I haven't done anything wrong!!" makes it uncomfortable, but it also makes you despise Ford's character, as I'm sure that was the intention. Richard Egan as Molly's father Ken, is so handsome and gentle at times (he was equally effective in Walt Disney's "Pollyanna" as Dr. Chilton) is a man who is trapped in a loveless marriage who finds and falls in love again with Dorothy McGuire, as Sylvia, his first love, who also happens to be the mother of Molly's boyfriend, Johnny!!! One of Egan's best lines is as he and Helen are having an explosive argument. Ken finishes off his end by saying, "Why must you insist on making sex itself a filthy word!" Arthur Kennedy, as Johnny's drunken father Bart was one of the actor's best later performances. The conflict between the two couples and the predicament that follows (Molly becomes pregnant by Johnny) was considered racy for its day, but considering how little is shown, you have to wonder what all the fuss was about!!! (Of course, the "King Kong" reference could bear some debate on that note). The argument between Molly and her mother at the beginning of the movie, sums up the times and also, in a way, the relationships between mothers and daughters. Molly: "Daddy, do I have to?" Ken: "Do you have to what?" Molly: "Wear this middy blouse to shore like a twelve-year-old! And she says I have to wear this armor-padded bra and a girdle! This thing even hurts, and I couldn't squeeze into this girdle with dynamite!"

It appears to be a soapy melodrama, but it really is a touching piece of nostalgia. Let's hope a DVD release is in the works!!! We all need to get away to "A Summer Place".

Update 2011: Warner Brothers finally released this classic on DVD, which looks very good, much sharper than the faded VHS tape quality. The only extra is the theatrical trailer, but I guess since the main actors and director are all deceased, it may have made any other inclusion of extras difficult. Still, maybe a featurette made up of experts on the film, book and such would have been nice. But I'm glad to have this classic in my collection.
13 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Kids Are All Right
rpvanderlinden22 December 2010
This movie has only one thing on its naughty little mind - sex. There are those who are getting it, those who aren't getting it but want it, and those who aren't getting it and are pretending they don't want it. One character in the latter category bandies words like "slut" and "harlot" about freely, but she didn't fool me. The four adults have managed to screw up their relationships, but the two very cute teenagers, played by Sandra Dee and Troy Donohue, look as if they'll get by okay if they just follow their hearts. I can't pretend that this is a great movie, but I had fun watching it. That's because the dialogue is way over the top and the actors deliver it with relish. In particular, Constance Ford (as Dee's evil, neurotic mom) and Arthur Kennedy (as Donohue's drunken sot of a dad) get all the best verbal poison arrows, and some of them are quite funny (sometimes unintentionally so). At one point Dee asks Donohue straight out: "Have you been bad with other girls?" That's the temper of the screenplay - everybody says precisely what's on their minds. I have to give the film credit for depicting the utter helplessness of adults in trying to manage their children's lives. Richard Egan and Dorothy McGuire (as lovely as ever) try to behave with stoic dignity which is hard to do when you're sneaking out to the boathouse for a midnight rendezvous and maybe a little you-know-what. The Technicolor location photography is very beautiful, with California doubling, I hear, for New England. And I enjoyed the costumes (okay, okay, I also enjoyed what was in them).
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"If Troy Donahue can be a movie star ..."
MOscarbradley29 July 2006
Sloan Wilson's best-seller was the kind of novel people read on the beach and was described at the time as 'steamy'. In 1959, this film version by Delmer Daves would have been considered 'daring' or even 'salacious' since it deals, quite frankly as it turns out, with the subject of sex. Of course, it's soap-opera but it's very enjoyable and surprisingly grown-up of it's kind and it's got some really good performances.

As the young lovers, both Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee handle the material with unusual delicacy. We aren't talking Oscars here but neither do they disgrace themselves. (Dee is particularly fine, Donahue less so, hunky but also a bit wooden, reminding you of the song from "A Chorous Line" that went 'If Troy Donahue can be a movie star, then I can be a movie star; funny how both he and Sandra Dee were immortalized in song).

As the cuckolded spouses Arthur Kennedy and Constance Ford are first-rate, (they are the villains of the piece and have the meatier roles). Unfortunately, neither Richard Egan nor Dorothy McGuire, (perpetually saint-like), have much charisma as the adulterous parents. Daves has always been an under-rated director. He made a handful of excellent westerns before embarking on a series of romantic melodramas of which this was the first and the best. It's no classic but more than serviceable for a rainy Saturday afternoon.
20 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Nostalgic, irresistibly sweet teen schmaltz - for the very young at heart.
gbrumburgh-113 September 2001
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** Sometimes you just can't help yourself. Every once in awhile heady art-house pieces or complex psychological thrillers just won't satisfy the ol' entertainment palate. At those times, I cave in to my craving for sweet, adulterated romantic tripe, look around to make sure nobody's around, and quickly escape back to the days of my own cotton-candy innocence. 1959's "A Summer Place" is the perfect baby-boomer fodder, summer or winter, to recapture those simple, glorious, carefree years when "being bad" for me was maybe throwing a snowball at a passing car or feigning a stomach ache to skip school, while "being bad" for my older teenage brother was getting to go a bit too far with his main squeeze! In Douglas Sirk's glossy, slightly lurid drama, you not only get to revel in a pre-Camelot box-office romance with two of the hottest "teen" stars ever "being bad", you get Max Steiner's luxuriant score, complete with Percy Faith's gorgeous theme song (#1 on the Billboard charts for 9 weeks - the single most successful instrumental pop hit ever!) to keep you in that sentimental "being bad" mood. And just leave it to old Max to know how to underscore adultery and underage coitus and make it all still seem so pure and unblemished.

A vacationing couple with their daughter spend the summer at a remote resort island off the coast of Maine where old love is rekindled and new love blossoms -- both with traumatic results. What this shallow but engagingly cloying beach-towel romance has going for it is its young lovers -- the pristine princess of the screen at the time, the inimitable Sandra Dee, and Hollywood's new flavor of the month, the staid, butter-haired dreamboat, Troy Donahue, as her flawed Prince Charming. Wow...what a couple. Utter perfection they are. And there's nothing more gratifying than seeing two perfect specimens drowning in misery to make you feel good again about your own woeful prom years. By the way, Dee was 17 and Donahue 23 at the time this was released. They, more than anyone, knew how to simulate the strains of aching young love.

On the other side of this love parallel, the always reliable thespians Richard Egan and Dorothy McGuire, as Sandy's dad and Troy's mom, denote the older, worldly-wise love set. Meeting again (not quite by happenstance), they reignite the smouldering passion they once shared, fueling it with moonlit encounters. Usually the epitome of candor and responsibility, they throw all caution to the wind in a last ditch effort to fulfill true love's destiny, foreshadowing just what might happen to Dee and Donahue.

As always in these cases, surrounding our two hot, hormonal couples are two necessary evils. Troy and mom Dorothy have their hands full as caretakers for their besotted husband/father Arthur Kennedy, a witty, extremely cynical one-time mariner who, drink in hand, enjoys expounding on the futility of life and love. But the real fun and chief fomenter here is Sandy's conniving, shrewish, abusive mother, played for all it's worth by Constance (Ada on "Another World") Ford. Ms Ford is the gal you love to hate in this picture and she becomes the big selling point in keeping the emotional boiling pot really boiling. Her Maleficent-like glare and ever-controlled smirk will chill you to the bone. Better yet, her frigid, emasculating, vindictive attitudes toward sex and marriage is enough to make a man join the foreign legion. I would venture to guess that the saying "colder than a witch's tit" came from somebody who saw Ford in this wonderfully frosty role.

The most palpable, mouth-watering Dee/Donahue encounter comes at the climactic late-night clinch at the lighthouse (they told their elders they were going to see "King Kong") where the innocent-eyed Dee is about to give in and "be bad." As Troy slowly goes in for the touchdown, Sandy coyly whispers the synopsis of the ape movie to cover their tracks when they get home. God, why couldn't us guys have killer turn-on dialogue like that going in for a touchdown?

Ah, well, suffice it to say that about every situation is wonderfully over-baked and most of the script sanitized to the point of campy hilarity. Why, you'll need a whole roll of extra-strength Bounty just to absorb all of the juicy tidbits that spill out of the mouths of this talented cast. But for every glorious good girl vs. naughty girl confrontation between mother and daughter, you'll have to endure the incessant sermonizing on the magnitude of love from Egan and McGuire. It's still worth it.

Despite the fact that Sandra Dee and the late Troy Donahue's saccharine appeal quickly soured in later years (both of them would suffer from chronic alcoholism), their chemistry here is undeniable and their legacies untarnished. They will go down in the Hollywood annals as the envy of every young couple ever in love and lust.
23 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
a Summer Place
mhrabovsky1-117 January 2006
Wow, Sandra Dee made two big soap opera connections in 1959, starring opposite of two of Hollywood's biggest female stars, Lana Turner in "Imitation of Life" and then "A Summer Place" with Dorothy McGuire. Pure soap on a rope in both of these films.....was in my first year of high school when this film opened and every girl I ever knew of in school and my neighborhood was hooked on this movie. Tell any girl you liked back then you would take them to see this movie, some of them 2-3 times and you had a sure date! Troy Donahue who had a bit role in "Imitation of Life" with Dee is the full blown boyfriend in this soaper. Good performances by the venerable actors Richard Egan, Dorothy Mcguire (in another never ending mother role), Arthur Kennedy and Constance Ford. How about Ford, Sandra Dee's evil, overbearing, sinister mother who wouldn't say a kind work about even Mother Theresa? By the middle of the film she has given the entire audience chills. Arthur Kennedy gave a solid performance as a drunk, down and out misfit father who offers a very sordid outlook on life for the young lovers, Dee and Donahue. Dorothy McGuire who appeared a little too old to me to be in love with the younger Egan gives a soaper-doaper performance extraordinare as the swindled mother who longs for her old boyfriend Egan. Then there is that never ending Max Steiner/Percy Faith theme song from the movie blurting out every few seconds.....no one in their 50s or 60s today could ever forget how many thousands of times they heard that song on the old am radios. Donahue became a soap opera lothario thanks to this film, making other soap suds in "Parrish" with Connie Stevens, and reuniting with McGuire in "Susan Slade" again with Stevens as the love interest. So sad to hear last year of the death of Dee and a couple of years earlier Donahue....... Dorothy McGuire a couple of years ago too. This film must have been the inspiration for any number of television soapers that have stayed on TV over the years.
18 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I think most people miss a deep meaning in this movie......
business-730-31268915 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was made at a crucial point in American history. In the late 50's and early 60's the sexual revolution was drastically changing the face of American culture, and this film was a commentary on the dark side of the sexual revolution, but yet offered hope that life could still go on.

Modern psychology has recently shown that divorce has devastating effects on children of all ages. This movie shows one aspect of that with the teenagers. When it is discovered that his mom is cheating with her dad, and that they are planning to get divorced, the devastation in the children's' lives is made very plain. Don't get me wrong, both of the parents that were left single by the divorce had their faults, and this is clearly shown, but their children paid for their decision to desert their responsibilities. Both children suffer a great deal of disillusionment, and reject their parents entirely for a time.

The kids are shown as torn between what they know to be the right, sensible thing to do, and what their young passions are yearning to do. Initially, they are prevailed upon to be reserved, but their loss of respect for their parents causes them to both be less reserved, and also more needy of each other. An unsuccessful attempt at reconciliation gives the teens opportunity to have a full-on fling that ends in an unplanned pregnancy, and their need for parental consent for their marriage drives them to reconcile with 3 out of 4 of their parents.

Regret and consequences are plainly shown toward the end of this movie. After the two are known to have been "too involved," the adulterous parents are discussing what to do, and his mother expresses concern about a deeper love that is different from passion, and more important. At one point after she knows she is pregnant, he says that he thinks her dad is going to beat him up, and he rather hopes that he does.

The personal suffering that unwise decisions bring is clearly portrayed to someone who is paying attention, yet hope is also obviously present. A partial reconciliation occurs, and we're left to believe that what began badly for the kids will end fairly well. It is in no way a depressing movie, but clear warnings are present nonetheless.

Some of the reviews led me to believe that this was a really morally repugnant movie, doing nothing but promoting sex, but I think that this is a relatively balanced look at the real pain that divorce and teenage "messing around" can bring. It is not outlandishly sexual, though it was bold for the time. Some of the lines are unconvincing, but overall it's a well-made movie, and an excellent piece of social commentary that is even more relevant today than it was in 1959.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of Delmer Daves' Best
kirksworks9 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Though dated, I was really impressed with this movie.  Beautifully shot in widescreen Technicolor with some great locations -talk about atmosphere!  The cast, some who either started out well then went on to lesser work (Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue), and others (like Richard Egan who were never that great to begin with), acted well under Delmer Daves.  Dee and Donahue gave the performances of their careers here, but Dee was equally good in Douglas Sirk's "Imitation of Life."   

Since this was 1959 where not much could be shown, everyone had to just talk about sex.  It was one of the film's strengths.  I was surprised by the frank talk, and the depth of understanding of human sexuality.   I liked how it began, with Arthur Kennedy and Dorothy McGuire arguing about the people approaching on a small yacht.  There seemed to be no reason for Kennedy to be against putting up the rich family for 3 months, going against his wife who was saying they needed the money.  Gradually, it became clear the whole thing was a set up by the main adult characters. Everyone knew what was going on, but no one knew anyone else knew. Kennedy knew his wife had been in love with Egan, who was approaching on the yacht.  McGuire knew Egan was approaching and wanted to see him.  Egan told his wife, Constance Ford, he just wanted to see what people remembered about him when he worked at the Inn years ago, but he really just wanted to see McGuire.  And Ford knew this is why her husband wanted to go there and went along to entrap him into a divorce.  

Pretty amazing writing, really.  Sloan Wilson, the novelist, wrote an early outline.  By the time Daves got the script, it had changed quite a bit.  Daves rewrote it, turning it into what it now is.  The dialog is, for the most part, quite sophisticated.  There's some clunkers, but it was more a case of sub-par delivery (mostly Egan).

I liked how characters evolved.  Beulah Bondi at first came across as a nosy old woman with a touch of senility, but we gradually come to see the depth and life experience in this woman.  She knows the pitfalls of life.  The scene between Bondi and McGuire when the old woman shows the vent where she heard the entire conversation coming from the attic was a high moment.     

As for Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue - they sure looked good together.  I bought their feelings for each other.  Donahue was somewhat of a one-trick pony.  He was quite good in this, giving a fully rounded performance, but he pretty much didn't do anything to make waves afterward. Maybe I haven 't seen his best work.  Sandra Dee, however, after being cast in some of the best cinema soaps of the 50s and 60s, was not so careful in her roles following.  This hurt her career and audiences didn't much take her seriously thereafter.  It's hard to believe that both these stars who were so alive and vibrant in "A Summer Place," have passed on.

Arthur Kennedy often seems to give pretty much the same performance.  He was much better here, but took getting used to.  He was properly cast, but the problem was that his tendency to overact was exactly what that character called for, and so it was difficult to separate the actor from the part.  Yet here he has a range.  Daves' cast was basically lower tier stars with some newcomers, and he got out of them more than most directors ever did.  McGuire was quite a good actress. Along with Bondi and the kids she probably gives the best performance. 

Constance Ford really made us hate her.  I can't think of many characters from that era as despicable as hers. It seemed she believed the narrow-minded, bigoted, sexually repressed and manipulative world view her character held.  I think the reason the film was condemned when first released was as much from Ford's portrayal of ultra right wing repression than it was of the sexual mores on display.

The way Daves alternated between two sets of lovers, one older with a past, and another young and unspoiled, was nicely contrasted.  We saw each couple trying to understand their situation.  The relationships nicely mirrored each other, showing generational gaps and understanding of overlapping truths.  Structurally, the script develops Egan and McGuire first and later we gradually come to understand the depth of feeling between Dee and Donahue.  So in this regard, the audience gets to understand the kids' relationship as the parents come to terms with it themselves.  This is what I liked so much about the film.  Really well thought out.      

And as for Max Steiner's score, it's a beaut.  The "Theme from Summer Place" is really evocative of the period, adding so much to the love scenes between Dee and Donahue.  It's effective because it's so wildly different from anything else in the score.  It's an island of tranquility in the midst of so much pain.  The scene where Dee explains the plot of "King Kong" to Donahue, ending in a kiss as she describes Kong's death on the Empire State Building is a brilliant moment for many reasons.  It's romantic, the wind blowing outside, Steiner's theme working in and out of the dialog.  And weaving the story of Kong into the mix sets us up for a tragedy.  We are unsure about how the film will end.  Audience manipulation at its best.

Finally, about choosing the Frank Lloyd Wright home in Carmel as a location.  The modernity of Wright's designs really add to the progressive thinking that is at the heart and core of this story.  

6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Impossible to get that song outta your head!
moonspinner553 September 2001
Gorgeous-looking soap opera, with Sandra Dee swaying, swooning and suffering her way through role as young woman determined to do the deed with stodgy, windbreaker-wearing Troy Donahue. Their parents disapprove of course, that is until her father and his mother have an affair of their own! Surprisingly absorbing plot really lays on the melodrama, but so what? It's a roller-coaster ride of teen angst, romantic emotions gone too far, all blissfully filmed in beautiful color. Probably Donahue's best performance, although Dee continues her fight against a thick layer of phoniness that always seems to seep into her work (she's just not a natural, the way Connie Stevens or Tuesday Weld were). The picture is famously scored with Max Steiner's music which forever lives on oldies radio-stations, and will forever live in your head once you've heard it. It's quite lovely, but played ad nauseum. *** from ****
16 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Still Smokin!
lssmc28 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Oh the memories! The theme from this movie by Percy Faith will to be locked in my mind forever! When I saw it was being featured on classic movies recently, I immediately tuned in. Seeing Troy and Sandra in their youth brought me back to my youth. One of those movies that will ever be a part of my teenage years. God Bless TMC for bringing it back.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Over the top in a good way
jjnxn-116 February 2012
A piece of honeyed excess if ever there was one this overblown film is a tasty treat for any fan of this kind of 50's melodrama.

Lushly filmed with beautiful people against gorgeous settings in fabulous clothes even the characters who are supposedly destitute are dressed in the height of fashion. The famous theme song plays constantly in the background imparting a romantic feeling throughout.

The story and mores are dated but that adds to the over top feeling of the whole enterprise.

As far as the performances-Dorothy McGuire & Richard Egan are dignified as the lonely couple married to the wrong people. Arthur Kennedy makes much more of his thinly written character than is in the script showing flashes of humanity through his alcoholic haze. Sandra Dee is frenzied and suitably desperate as the young sheltered daughter and Troy Donahue very good looking as the son but he seriously could not act. He makes a cigar store Indian appear lively! However acting honors are handily stolen by the great under rated Constance Ford. Her ice cold harridan steals every second she is on the screen as she bites off large chunks of the scenery and makes a memorable villainess.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
15 times of pure bliss.
pwaz5 March 1999
I consider A Summer Place one of the best movies ever. The acting was good by everyone. Troy Donahue, Dorothy McGuire, Richard Egan, Sandra Dee, Arthur Kennedy, Constance Ford. I have seen the movie about 15 times, originally in the movie theatre, everytime it comes on TV and I have a tape of it and watch it every so often. I love it.
14 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Summer Place - Great
obxocean28 December 2004
I think this was my first "favorite" movie and when it came out on video I bought it right away. I still watch it ... it's a little said that most of the main characters have passed away now. When my daughter was a teenager she watched it and "got hooked" and then she had all her friends over to watch the movie too! It's a great "chick flick!!" It's still a great movie and the scenery is beautiful. I would love to know where it was filmed. I have been in Maine and no one up there seems to know if it was actually filmed there. Then I went to Catalina Island and I couldn't believe that so much of it reminded me of "A Summer Place." If anyone knows if the movie was filmed there, please let me know. Thanks so much!
9 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The supreme discomfort of human love and sex
BigBobFoonman20 December 2010
I have always stopped and listened to the music theme of this movie whether it be in an elevator, grocery store or radio.....I see a beautiful woman walking on a beach when I hear it....

Just saw the movie last night for the first time. SWEET HAY-soos....what a morality tale!.....there was never an answer given as to what the right thing was to do for the 2 sets of lovers in this story....and that is as it should be.....no answers....no comfort.....when pheromones strike...when the groin takes the heart with it.....

Strangely discomforting and sad movie....way ahead of it's time. Richard Egan and Arthur Kennedy did good work as the men, Richard Egan was surprisingly convincing as a real man with a romantic heart....a man well aware that humans must have been an evolutionary mistake...the loins of animals, and the high moral brains of whatever space aliens came down and decided to play pool with the DNA of Earth.

Sandra Dee should have been Natalie Wood....nuff said......Dorothy McGuire is the 50s equivalent of heartbreaking beauty.....hell, I was in love with her by the end of the movie.....Troy Donahue did well...I'll always wonder if he was gay...but his acting chops were good in this film.

The saddest thing about this movie is how serious unwed sex, adultery and illegitimate babies were taken in the 50s, and how accepted and laughably commonplace they are today. I mark the beginning of the end of the USA as the Woodstock music festival.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Wonderful Romantic Movie & Timeless Music Soundtrack
fluna10301 June 2006
This movie ranks as one of my all time favorites. Released in 1959, A Summer Place is a story of former lovers from the past that re-kindle their lost love. Unfortunately, now married to different people & unhappy, they find time at night to pick up where they left off. At the same time, the kids from their marriages fall in love (Troy Donahue & Sandra Dee) while at Pine Island, Maine....where the story takes place. While the marriages unravel, Molly & Johnny fall in love even deeper...but because of their parents unraveling marriages, they are both forbidden to see each other. As always, love finds a way to conquer all. At the time this movie was released, there were some subjects that arose....i.e.: Teen pregnancy, Adultery, deceit,...well, you get the idea. In my opinion, Delmer Davies (he wrote, produced & directed) dealt with these "touchy" subjects & translated them to the screen with gentleness & respect so that everyone watching would not be offended. What stands out is the music composed by Max Steiner for this movie. Percy Faith recorded it & released on Columbia Records in 1960 & became a monster hit! As of this writing, this movie has not been released on DVD.....yet, so if you can find the VHS of this movie, Get it! If you love Romantic movies, A Summer Place won't disappoint you. By the way, Sandra Dee is an absolute "Babe" in this movie. Enjoy!
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Robby-3517 May 2000
Saw this film when I was about 12 - fell for the older Richard Egan..not Troy Donahue. Richard Egan MADE THIS MOVIE (for ME anyway.)

Have this film on tape-enjoy it each time I watch it again. The theme music is good, the scenery and color are beautiful (for l959).

Dorothy McGuire did an excellent job as the wife of an alcoholic and Constance Ford was convincing as the wife of a man she could not "make happy....or herself."

Troy Donahue did a good job...after all he had not had much experience at this time. (Some moments...yes, he was a bit "stiff".) I thought the beautiful, young Sandra Dee did a wonderful job. I am a huge fan of hers and have enjoyed Sandra Dee in each of her films. She and Troy had some "silly" lines but afterall, it WAS 1959.

This is a movie for sentimental souls. It's for people who are smart enough to recognize that some lines and scenes ARE SILLY...but realize that the majority of this film is worth watching over...and over...and over again.

Any female whose "HEART JUST DOES NOT STOP" when the handsome RICHARD EGAN walks into a room is DEAD ALREADY!!! He was SUCH a handsome man.

He always seemed to be such a "decent" sort of individual as well.


4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Maybe Life Is Just A Dice Game Afterall
strong-122-47888523 December 2014
As far as scorching, melodramatic (and sometimes over-the-top) soap operas go - A Summer Place's scandal-ridden story (from 1959) actually held up surprisingly well (until about the point when Ken & Sylvia's shocking, little infidelity made newspaper headlines).

It was following this climatic moment (which happened at about the 60-minute point) that A Summer Place then began to seriously lose a lot of its initial steam as it inevitably petered out into a rather sappy, "happy ending" fizzle.

Featuring a pretty competent cast, headlined by the likes of Richard Egan and (teen idol) Troy Donahue, A Summer Place was definitely quite an emotional, little roller-coaster ride at times, containing plenty of vicious muck-slinging, punctuated by equally damning jabs of biting dialogue.

When dealing maturely with sexual issues, A Summer Place was certainly a very frank and racy story for its day.

The one real standout performance that I think is worth mentioning in the film was that of Constance Ford who played Helen Jorgenson, Molly's brittle and hateful mother who repeatedly reared her ugly head as a nasty, sanctimonious hypocrite.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed